The Dizzying Highs
The Goalies – I suppose you’re slightly ahead of being a total moron when you can admit what you don’t know and take appropriate steps. You’ll never convince us the Hawks have any sort of plan to the past couple seasons or this one. And yet there probably was some humility in thinking they might not have gotten everything right, so they’ll just shore up the goalies to one of the best tandems in the league and if everything else falls apart, which it very well might, those two will at least give them a chance every game.
And so it has proven of late. Robin Lehner kept them from getting embarrassed in San Jose and at least allowed for the possibility of a miracle comeback late. Corey Crawford stopped 36 shots against the Canucks. He held the Penguins to two goals and really should have gotten another two points there. Lehner stopped 743 shots last night against the Leafs to get the Hawks another two points. Five out of six points, with the goalies being the main reason.
We should be used to slow Corey Crawford starts by now, it’s kind of his thing. In three November starts he’s at .929. Lehner is at .934 for the year, and .931 in four November appearances.
Whatever else it is the Hawks are doing, and that is unclear to just about everyone including themselves, their goalies have performed of late exactly as the Hawks had hoped. Which they’ll take far too much credit for, but it’s better than getting your brains beaten in every night. Last year, Cam Ward would have given up 12 goals to the Leafs on a night like that.
The Terrifying Lows
Slater Koekkoek And Not Admitting A Mistake – I don’t know what the blindspot is for the Hawks and subpar d-men. We went through this with David Rundblad. We went through this with Trevor van Riemsdyk. And what’s infuriating about it is not that the players themselves are bad, because teams have bad players. It’s that the Hawks continue to insist on trotting them out there when they’ve both proven they’re not up to it, and there’s also little investment.
Sure, Rundblad somehow cost a 2nd round pick (!). And I guess there’s some drive to prove that it was worth it even when that no longer seems possible. But given where the Hawks were in their trajectory at that point, did the 55th pick or lower really matter that much?
All Slater Koekkoek cost you was the equally awful Jan Rutta. You’re not in deep on this one. Enough is enough. He’s not going to be a diamond in the rough (hey! poet and I don’t even know it!). He’s bad, he’s going to continue to be bad, and while once is explainable never again should Adam Boqvist sit so he can air out and cost you points.
And Koekkoek cost them points on Saturday night, or a point to be correct. If the Hawks get to the second intermission up 2-0, they probably win that game. Giving the Penguins life by mishandling a puck, being indecisive, and then letting Evgeni Malkin pick his pass is exactly what you can’t do late in the second with a two-goal lead. Whether the Hawks are aimed at this season or the ones to follow, Koekkoek doesn’t fit in either scenario. If he’s not waived when Connor Murphy is healthy then that should be a pretty high bullet-point in the case that McDonough makes to fire Stan Bowman. Which won’t happen, but we can imagine at least. We’re just an animal without imagination.
The Creamy Middles
Patrick Kane – Until last night, you wouldn’t say that here had been a signature Patrick Kane game this year. He’d only had two multi-point games in October. And even the ones that have come in November were boosted by empty-net assists and the like. And yet there he is sitting on a 98-point pace. The metrics may be terrible (and they are) and constantly-shuffling linemates may have thrown him off rhythm (they most certainly have) and yet he just collects goals and assists. You may never notice him for 58 minutes of every game, and you look up and there’s two points. Imagine when he gets to carve out a constant role and you really do start to notice him again.